“Weaving irresistible pop hooks with an inward search for meaning.”– Under the Radar on Grant Swift’s “First Elephant” LP
Transformation, the new LP from songwriter, composer, and vocalist Grant Swift builds on the softly psychedelic folk-rock and hook-drenched power pop of his First Elephant release to deliver the listener a truly transformative experience. Swift’s knack for crafting irresistible melodic hooks and his soaring, ethereal voice are still here in spades of course. On this new release Swift has stripped his sound to the core, allowing his songwriting and virtuosic acoustic guitar playing to come to the fore. Yet, from its simplicity comes a grace: the simple, enchanting beauty of immaculate composition and warm, organic performance merging in a work of captivating beauty.
After the process of creating First Elephant, Swift found that if he was going to elevate his writing he needed to turn to simplicity. He found the antidote to the swirl of modernity by venturing to an olive farm and vineyard in Italy, trading field work for room and board. He finished writing, recorded, and mixed Transformation abroad.
“I took a whimsical and spontaneous approach” says Swift. “A lot of the sounds on the record are things I recorded on my phone, or on a small handheld recorder while out in the world, like a foghorn in Japan, or waves on a beach. The “snare” drum on “Be There” is actually just the sound of turning off a small practice amp of mine. So, this album is also more of an exercise in creative limitation.” All of the instruments on the record – apart from the lovely strings by Patricia Santos (Cello), Lavinia Pavlish (Violin) and Laura Sacks (Viola) that grace several tracks – were played by Swift. Everything was recorded and mixed by Swift in his Brooklyn apartment, a bathroom in Paris, and an Italian basement .
“I believe the record feels more intimate in part because I didn’t really share the songs with anyone ahead of time” he continues. “I actually went to lengths to not have my fiancée hear it while I was working on it, for fear that any insight or feedback, even if it was positive, could interfere with the process of making it in a pure and efficient way. I had my friend James Zaner master it so I could finally get a separate set of ears listening to everything at the end.”
While Swift is known to dabble in the abstract, with Transformation the lyrics, melody, timbre, and instrumentation coalesce, drawing intangible feelings and ideas into a space where they find coherence. We find change a major theme throughout the record, along with a meditation on how personal perspectives and worldviews, shape the experience of transformation to describe what we call “destruction” or “creation.”
Despite the metaphysical philosophical underpinnings, Swift has humble hopes for the record. “Ultimately, I hope the album inspires” he says. “What else is music good for?”
– Ever Kipp, 2023
Of his last album, Under The Radar Magazine writes, “Swift displays a deft hold on potent pop melody.”1 First Elephant’s singles were adds on College and Community radio stations nationwide and NACC charts in several markets. The single “Sunshine” was a favorite of Baltimore’s public radio station, WTMD 89.7 FM, and was spun over 100 times.2 Grant’s self-produced music video made fans over at V13.3
Swift is a New York City boy and the son of a preacher. Born in Manhattan, formed in the tri-state, and educated in the Bronx, he currently hails from Brooklyn. By deploying his eclectic training in Baroque and Classical music and drawing deftly from the palette of the R&B, Psychedelic Rock, Jazz, and Pop he played growing up, Swift crafts music that “brilliantly recreates a modern mashup sound” (Impose).4
While studying at Fordham University, Swift served as the Music Director of ICCA Semi-Finalists, The Fordham Ramblers (Fordham University’s original all-male acapella group). As he earned a full double major BA in Music Composition and Philosophy, Swift’s characteristically intricate vocal arrangements led the group to their first Quarterfinal placement. His award-winning performances as a singer, guitarist, and one-man band have earned him acclaim throughout the United States,5 and HuffPost called his previous musical project The Candy Apples6 one of “5 Must-See Indie Summer Concerts in NYC”.7
Swift is one half of the acoustic duo Mac/Glidden,8 and with longtime songwriting partner Andy McCarthy, wrote, performed and engineered Mac/Glidden’s debut psychedelic-folk-rock album, Fall Into The Dark, (2017.) Their music video for the song “Mountains,”9 directed and animated by lauded sculptor / filmmaker Laurie Berenhaus, was an official selection at Sidewalk Film Festival, Indie Memphis Fest, and Leeds International Film Festival, among others.
That year they had the great honor of being invited by the late, prodigious, two-time Emmy Award winning Music Director for Saturday Night Live, Katreese Barnes10 to perform in her home for her live stream concert series, Welcome 2 My House. Barnes wrote orchestral arrangements of Mac/Glidden songs for the concert and provided a full backing band.11, 12 Barnes said, “Mac/Glidden are keepers of the classic Music flame. It was a pleasure to work with them.”